Sometimes we all need reminders as we deal with the complexities of life, business, government, the workplace, teaching, parenting…what-have-you. In business, by the time you get to a senior position, you have likely made more mistakes than you care to recall. But, it is much more likely that the mistakes you made (by commission OR omission), led to learning that has stayed with you through today, and will be retained for a much longer time too. In addition, the lessons-learned from your early family life: parents, schooling, maybe even further influenced by character-builders (like mentors), or a faith-foundation, frames your own personal ethics.
By the time you operate effectively in the market place, you are:
- PRE-armed by your “core” and your education, and,
- FORE-warned by the sum of all your experiences, reflected in the data you select to guide all of the choices you make on a daily, hourly, even minute-to-minute basis.
On top of all of this, we embrace certain principles to supplement our personal make-up. Whether this foundation of hard beliefs that sticks with us comes from: historically-proven core precepts, the Constitution and its amendments, a faith-view, an innate and developed structure of right and wrong, or just plain-old good sense…the real question becomes…do we exercise those things on a consistent basis within our management judgments?
A big topic these days, suggested as the cause of management failures, is hubris. Failures abound from the annals of fraudsters: Nacchio at Qwest, the Rigas’ at Adelphia, Ebbers/Sullivan at WorldCom, Kozlowski at Tyco. And don’t even get me started with government lapses! Recall some “small” city players like the former mayors of Detroit, San Diego, and New Orleans–all the way to national leaders. You can also count a lengthy roster of management people: Corzine of MF Global, Dunlap of Sunbeam, et.al., who must have been convinced they owned the “secret sauce,” the Midas touch, as they clearly thought too highly of themselves, if worse flaws weren’t at work too!
Experience, research, the opinions of others, the “classics”, even some of my own thinking led me to conjure up some solutions to avoid the grandiose self-opinions that result in dumb actions which then destroy reputations, people, companies, wealth, ethics, or all of the above.
You can rely on: your own self-criticism, your personal “core”, your experiences. You can ensure you act upon the espoused quantitative and qualitative metrics to drive/directly influence your choices and actions. You can surround yourself with strong people who “keep you in check.” You can have a very effective governance approach with an effective, diligent, and independent board.
But, you must find the hubris-hindering mechanism that works for you and your organization. We are all capable of varying off of the fundamentals…let me point out the obvious: go back to those effective tools and reminders.
I’ve even read about a CEO who keeps a picture of General Custer in his office.
There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.
[Jonathan Swift, 1738, was 1st to use this in literature, in ‘Polite Conversation’; oh, and see Jer. 5:21 also.]